Mask Theater

Skepticalist made a terrific observation the other day that I wanted to share with everyone:

My go to evening news has been NBC Nightly News. I have a soft spot for them, as batty as they have become in the past few years, but I did work there, and did work with some of the best; Tom Brokaw, Garrick Utley, Lester Holt, Robert Bazell. I was even theoretically exposed to Anthrax in 2001 at 30 Rock. (I was upstairs for 25 minutes during the last day of the exposure.)

But lately I’ve been watching what I call Mask Theater. News correspondents reporting from a location, miles away from the general public, wearing a mask on camera. The closest person to them is the camera operator, at least 6 feet away, a crew they are probably sharing a van with while off camera and on the way to locations . (I’m sure the other networks are playing the same game too – I am surprised that NBC has not ordered Peacock masks. )

But if you are reporting from an empty stadium or race track and the story is that there is no one in the stands – why are you wearing a mask?

My first observation is that if anyone at NBC is reading this, I can most definitely sell you Peacock masks!

I guess the whole “you’re going die, you wingnut, if you don’t wear a mask!” thing isn’t about to go away so I guess we need to discuss it a bit more. I want to come at it from the standpoint of “mask theater” as Skepticalist points out.

There are lots of things we do because it “makes us safer” when in reality it doesn’t make us any safer at all. It’s theater so that we can get on with our lives feeling like we’ve taken all the prudent precautions to prevent our untimely death.

As an example, how many lives have been saved by putting up that airplane tray table? Probably none but we do it because it seems prudent. Maybe it would impale you in the chest or maybe it would impede someone from getting out so we do it. How about seat belts in airplanes? They probably don’t save many lives either but it helps us die in an orderly fashion so that’s good.

The greatest example of this kind of thing is airport security. A doofus named Richard Reid tried to set off a bomb in a tennis shoe following 9-11 and we are forever required to take off our shoes when going through security. It, however, makes the flying public “feel” safer somehow and they might feel less safe if they stopped doing it.

The problem we face is that our government will lie to us about whether something will kill us or make us safe. Back in the olden days, everyone KNEW (because that’s what the government told us) that if you plugged something into a phone jack, there was a good chance you’d burn your house down. Only a highly trained phone technician could plug in a phone. And then came deregulation and the government said “never mind” because it was now in their best interest for people to buy phones and install them themselves.

My wife is a dental hygienist and she’s been using PPE infection control techniques ever since there were infection control techniques beyond using a sterilization machine. PPE is single use and goes in the trash. If you touch something outside the sterile field such as your face, you have to take steps to replace the PPE.

Thus, is the use of a dirty rag or an old mask you use in your wood shop (which is what I have!) proper infection control? NO! OF COURSE NOT!

Does it help even a tiny, eeny little, minuscule bit? Maybe but probably not and any “study” that indicates it does is probably a lie.

What it is, however, is mask theater designed to get people feeling like they’re not going to meet their maker later that day. Actually, President Trump would be smarter to do a 180 degree turn right now and announce that the dirtier the mask, the better it works and that all supporters should immediately wear dirty masks so the country can continue to get back to work. I would have told people in Tulsa that the President has personally asked them all to wear their “MAGA masks” at the event just to spin CNN’s head off.

Of course, CNN would then do a series of reports that masks don’t work but that’s to be expected at this point. Regardless, my view of masks is that I don’t mind participating in mask theater if it helps people feel safe.

I also think the “it’s against my rights” is a vacuous argument since there’s no “what we should be doing instead is . . .” We only have social distance, good hygiene, and wearing a mask as protections against this virus and we really don’t know if ANY of them actually work or to what degree. My view is that it’s a lot more effective and persuasive for us to participate in the mask theater rather than fight against something for which we have no alternative. We can all feel smug in knowing that we’re doing our part to get everyone back to work and into the restaurants. Besides, I sell these things!

Mark Rosneck

Written by Mark Rosneck

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